Scholar..BaUer - Scholar Baller
Page 1 of2
teaches importance of academics
The NCAA News
School is cool.
As valid as the sentiment behind the old cliche may be, coaches and administrators know well that with each
generation of student-athlete comes a host of other interests that vigorously compete with academic pursuits
for the same designation.
However, a program established by a former student-athlete is seeking to
help youth and young adults understand that acing the math exam is,
Indeed, just as cool as, and arguably more important than, sinking a basket
at the buzzer or making the game saving tackle.
The aim of the Scholar Baller program is to pepper young people and young
adults early with the message that having the desire to be cool isn't, and
shouldn't be, limited to athletics, said program founder and currently an
associate professor for the DeVos Sport Business Management graduate
program at the University of Central Ronda, C. Keith Harrison.
Emall this article
Print this article
"It should also apply to academics. Networking should be cool. Planning for your future should be cool. Having goals that involve delaying
gratification should be desired because we know the stats. Sport will end," said Harrison. "We theorize that If we combine education with
sport, young people will want to live a lifestyle that's educational, hence, coot."
Harrison, a former football student-athlete at West Texas A&M University, connected the word 'scholar'
and all its posltlve connotations with the term, 'baller,' which has its roots in urban America. He coined the
term 'Scholar Baller' along with an image called the 'Thinkman' in 1995. A 'Thinkwoman' image was
developed later. The mission of the Scholar Baller program is to Inspire youth to excel in education and life
by using their cultural interests in sport and entertainment.' More specifically, the movement integrates
education, sport and hip-hop as a way of motivating and rewarding athletes who perform on the field and
in the classroom.
So far 44 schools have Integrated all or parts of the Scholar Baller program with all or a portion of the
teams in the athletics departments. Of those 44 institutions, 30 are NCAA schools that have applied
tenants of the Scholar Balier program to 164 men's and women's teams representing a wide variety of
sports. Participating institutions Include Arizona State University, Fordham University, Grand Valley State
University, Pennsylvania State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Northern Illinois University.
The movement also has a presence at the high school and junior college levels. As part of the program,
participating institutions have the option of incorporating the whole Scholar Baller curriculum or just the Incentive structure.
Harrison said the curriculum Is based on six principles - identity; competitive spirit; Scholar Baller
paradigm; purpose, vision, mission, goals; decision making system; and living Scholar Baller - and is
designed to fit comfortably with and compliment existing programs such as CHAMPS/Life Skills that may
already be in place. What may set Scholar Baller apart, however, is the use of pop culture as a framework.
The program, which uses avos, CDs and other relevant things In sports and entertainment that young
people already consume, also has a pretest and post-test element.
"We're trying to dig deeper with the cultural messages that are already out there to look at this thing
critically. We're teaching critical life skills, n said Harrison, who noted that the NCAA currently is funding
the implementation of the full Scholar Baller curriculum at three member institutions. The goals of the
pilot project center around trying to Increase the academic success of those student-athletes and
attempting attract corporate support for the initiative. Though an official report on the success of the pilot
isn't due until August of next year, Harrison said there's already evidence that the program works. In
touting the program's effectiveness, Harrison points to one school which went from 10 playerslwith a 2.75
GPA to more than 60 since launching the program, and emphasizes that there are countless similar
anecdotes that also support how well the program motivates student-athletes.
Scholar Baller's Incentive package involves rewarding high achieving student-athletes with fashion apparel such as shorts, t-shirts and
hats. Those who earn a 3.0 grade-point average or better have the opportunity to wear what Harrison describes as the crowning jewel, the
Thinkman or Thinkwoman patch, on their playing ,uniforms. The patch was approved by the NCAA in 2004. Teams with student-athletes
who have eamed the honor of wearing the patch have been seen on a various national netwo!ik s such as ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports, ABC
and CSlV as well as local networks.
'th' the boundaries of NCAA policies and Harrison noted that most schools find funding for the initiative
The incentive program opera es WI In.ty F d b t ot always Some institutions are utilizing money from other administrative areas on
through the Student-Athlete
campus, rather than athletics.
For all the success Scholar Baller has achieved thus far, Harrison recognizes that some may be put off or have misconceptions about the
program because of its urban sounding name. But, the educator stresses that Scholar Baller is not just for the African American studentat:'1lete.ln fact, more than half of the participants are white. Rather, the program represents a wide range of diversity of student-athletes,
all of whom demonstrate a strong academic identity along with athletics talent.
"Does Scholar Baller resonate more with urban youth than it does with suburban youth? I would say, sometimes. It just depends," said
Harrison. ~We have had the concept embraced by scholar athletes at Columbia University to NCAA Division II schools to state universities.
I think the point is that any misunderstanding about the term or any uneasiness has come from coaches and administrators who do not
identify with young people and what they are into."
But, there are a lot of coaches and administrators who do Uget it," Harrison said, which is why the program has grown so explosively,
especially in the past two years. In fact, program administrators have been invited to present material to the American Football Coaches
Association and the Mid-American Conference in January. uThere's no way we could grow if people' did not see that this has value and
connects with young people. If Scholar Balier is the carrot, why not meet the youth and young adults halfway? Scholar Bailer is not for us
- administrators, faculty, and staff. It's for the student-athletes."
Even as he and others connected to Scholar Baller manage the present success, Harrison has an eye on the future. He'd like to expand the
program so that entire conferences would incorporate the program league wide, and as the funding grows, he'd like to attract former highachieving NCAA student-athletes to work for Scholar Baller.
uWe've got to get the message out there about the brand and that it's something poslttve," said Harrison. "It's not monolithic and it's more
than entertainment. It's educational. It's diverse and it's for everyone."
For more information
about Scholar Baller, go to www.scholarbalier.org.
View online at: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/portal/newsdetail?
Copyright © 2004 by NCAA
Further reproduction is prohibited
express written permission
http://wv;,1w.ncaa.or g! WpS1wcm/connec